In Praise of Petco

by Eva Saks

     Ah, Petco. Although this corporate behemoth represents the Enemy in  some holistic pet circles, Petco actually has a lot going for it. I've had occasion to visit several branches recently and been pleasantly surprised by what I found. Consumer-driven, Petco sells what people want -- which nowadays means premium foods and "green" products. Sure, I prefer to patronize Mom-and-Pop Organic trading posts, but sometimes I need the closest or cheapest place. If that's Petco, so be it, and be grateful. You can shop very well there, if you're careful. And so, I submit:

Top Ten Reasons to Like Petco

10) The Petco Foundation.  Petco supports rescue groups all over the country.

9) Adoption Discounts.  Petco gives a discount coupon book to anyone who comes in with shelter paperwork, evidencing that his new pet is from a shelter.

8) Useful Web Site.  Petco's site is a fantastic resource, regardless of whether you feed Petco products.  You can search foods by protein or by carb source,  as well as by brand.  Moreover, every listing includes nutrition details, from soup to nuts to preservatives (e.g., percentage of protein). This is useful info not readily available from manufacturers. On the Petco site, it's all there in one place. Consumer research is easy.  Let your paws do the walking!

7)  A Clean, Well-lighted Place.  Petco is. Which means you can read labels, assess colors, and see what's at the other end of the football field.

6)   Unpretentious.  Petco has a pleasant, crossroads-of-humanity atmosphere -- unlike some pet boutiques, where they make you feel out of place if you're not wearing Christian Louboutin shoes.  In fact, they make you feel out of place if your dog's not wearing Christian Louboutin shoes.  Who needs that?  I want to buy upscale products but dress down. Petco's for me.

5)  Variety.  Petco carries everything. I wish they'd eliminate Lowest Common Denominator products but I doff my hat to them for what they  include: Nature's Variety, Wellness Core, Merrick's Before Grain, Blue Wilderness, Solid Gold, and Halo. You can't do much better with dry food. (The other first-rate kibbles are Party Animal Organic, Go! Natural, Mulligan Stew, Orijen, EVO, First Mate, Artemis, and Nature's Logic.) Lest you think Petco indistinguishable from Petsmart, note that the only first-class kibbles on Petsmart's web site, in my opinion, are Blue Wilderness and Innova -- and Innova is not grain-free. That's a big difference between these chains. The "average" is much higher at Petco.

4)   Green Toys.  Petco has a wonderful new line of "green" toys.  Some are hemp, but you don't smoke them.  They're so beautiful I want to decorate my house with them. They're a fine example of a smart company keeping up with the Joneses: someone at Petco no doubt stood up and said, "Hey, we can sell Politically Correct craft-sy toys, just like the swanky shoppes do!" And do they ever.

3)   Sales.  Petco runs constant sales and specials. Have patience and don't buy what you don't need.  You'll come out ahead.

2)   Collars.  I went to six other places -- from the plebeian Big Lots to the ultra-ritzy Kriser's -- to find the right pink collar for my Sheltie Sally.  (The princess looks pretty in pink.) I saw hot pink, pink ultrasuede, pink with bling, pink for kitties...but nothing worked until I went to Petco. Bingo! Huge selection of collars, every size, many shades, plain or patterned, decently priced. I found the perfect one for my little girl: a subtle rose with reflective ridges for safety. Think pink!

1)  Unleashed by Petco.  Unleashed by Petcos are smaller stores showcasing the best of Petco: organic, well-designed, grain-free, high-end. I happened into one yesterday in the San Fernando Valley and thought I was in a boutique...but blessedly without boutique attitude or pricing. Jeez, they carried four different brands of raw food. Petco, you've outdone yourself with this initiative. Bravo!